Out West: Jackson Hole, Wyoming

October 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

This summer, J and I took a trip to Jackson Hole, a place where he likes to snowboard in the winter and a place I had never heard of until he brought it up. Apparently it’s beautiful there!

The Teton Range

The Teton Range

That was the view from the plane as we were landing. Not a bad first impression, Wyoming.

Lodging

The view from our resort was just as good, or perhaps even better because we could sit by the pool and listen to the cattle mooing in the valley below. (Seriously, they were down there bellowing 24/7, and the first few times I heard them, I thought it was someone’s phone vibrating! More cow encounters to follow later because cows are hilarious.)

♡♡♡

#iwokeuplikethis

#iwokeuplikethis

We stayed at Amangani, part of the worldwide Aman Resorts chain (of which we are newly converted huge fans), is located atop a mountain 15 minutes outside of downtown and 20 minutes away from Teton Village, the more touristy area with ski lifts and kids’ activities.

In contrast, our resort was an oasis in a locale that was already pretty idyllic. For one, there are less than 50 rooms in the whole hotel, making for a serene experience where we could (mostly) avoid other people’s noisy children and the like. Plus, our little mountain (the East Gros Ventre Butte) is a protected wildlife habitat, which means sometimes you’ll find moose in the front yard. Literally.

The first afternoon when we stepped out of the front door to head downtown for dinner, the two valets were in a tizzy.

“There’s a moose and her baby nearby,” one of them whispered excitedly, gesturing toward the row of parked cars on the driveway. We poked our heads around, expecting to see the animals farther up on the road, but they were RIGHT THERE in front of us, just hanging out in the little pond right next to the cars.

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Canadian Sugar Mama (Day 2)

June 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

car

Carpool selfie! (cr: Xixi)

According to Chen, Seattle is boring and can be toured in about a day, so we somewhat hastily planned a visit Vancouver. (I use the word “planned” lightly as we were all too busy/lazy to figure out an itinerary until the last minute. We might not even have ended up going if I hadn’t booked a hotel??)

The four of us (minus Shirley) left the morning of the second day. The two-and-a-half hour drive passed by relatively quickly, probably because I was sleeping in the backseat, hehe. (Thanks for driving, Chen and Lucy!)

3-Me-Xixi

Backseat buddies!

It was kind of scary having to turn off all our mobile services after crossing the border simply because we were so unprepared. On the way, we furiously Yelped a few places to eat while Lucy took screenshots of all the maps we’d need.

We were so preoccupied with simply having our passports (I might’ve threatened to maim anyone who forgot hers…only because I had a previous time-wasting experience of a friend forgetting his!) that we forgot one major detail: None of us had any Canadian money, and we had no idea where to find currency exchanges. And it turned out that I was the only one with a credit card that had no foreign transaction fees.

Conclusion: I became a sugar mama for 24 hours.

Everything from parking to souvenirs to meals were billed to me. (Give me all the points!) It was actually kind of fun? But only because I knew they would pay me back later! And it certainly made things easier not struggling to split the check at the table. (I kept all my receipts and spent some time with Excel upon returning to Chicago.) « Read the rest of this entry »

Journey To The West (Day 1)

May 27, 2014 § 1 Comment

A few weeks ago, Lucy, Xixi and I (sadly, minus Yawen) took a momentous trip to Seattle to visit Chen and Shirley. It was our first getaway together without our parents — we’re finally adults!!

Lucy and I flew out on Thursday night and treated ourselves to some in-flight wine (a local Washington red) and fruit/cheese platter because we’re ~fancy~. Just kidding, it was because our flight was delayed an hour and I really needed a drink. Regardless, that snack was the start of an epic eating adventure, as any good vacation should be.

Our first day in Seattle started with a bus ride from Bellevue to Ballard, a charming neighborhood with lots of vintage stores and cute restaurants.

1-Bus

The first of many selfies (cr: Lucy)

...what

…what

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My Problem With “Frozen”

February 16, 2014 § 6 Comments

Over the weekend, I had the chance to watch Disney’s Frozen with a few friends — well, it was almost 4 a.m. when we started the movie, so we only got through two-thirds of it.

A little background: I absolutely love watching animated movies. Two of my favorite movies of all time are Coraline and The Secret of Kells; one of my favorite films of 2013 was Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2. However, this doesn’t mean I’m not picky about what I watch. Almost none of the other animated features of last year (Monsters University, Despicable Me 2) appealed to me, including Frozen.

Overall, I’d say the movie was charming. The animation was beautiful, and the songs and voice acting were superb. But I couldn’t get over the fact that the entire plot was based on a hugely flawed premise.

I can accept without question that Elsa was just born with magical snow-making abilities. Fairy tales usually have an element of fantasy, after all. But what I cannot wrap my head around is that she has to go through a huge period of her life believing that she needs to hide this superpower.

Frozen

Her parents are largely to blame. It’s strongly implied that they knew about this ability even before the incident and had told young Elsa to keep it under wraps. Why else would nobody in the kingdom know about it? But the thing is…what are they afraid of? They’re the royal family. Can you imagine if the Queen of England had the power to shoot icicles?? Wouldn’t awe and respect of the throne be magnified by a million percent?! Did they think that the police were going to come and cart their daughter off to join the circus?? (Were they afraid ice-haulers like Kristoff would be put out of a job???)

That brings us to the part where Anna’s memories gets erased/replaced. It’s weird enough that we don’t get any explanation (other than a map that falls out of a book?) of why stone trolls are the end-all, be-all of magical maladies. I guess their reasoning was that if she forgot about her sister’s power, then she wouldn’t tempt her to use it and would therefore be safe. Really? The king and queen went with that kind of logic? That whole sequence was basically shoved down our throats in a don’t-ask-any-questions way, but I demand better.

If Elsa were encouraged to cultivate her powers instead of trying to act like they don’t exist, this would’ve been a much better story. Seriously, what kind of parent tells his child to “conceal, don’t feel”?? We as the audience are asked to simply believe that her abilities are automatically bad and to be feared without being given good enough reasons as to why.

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That Time I Met Tyra Banks and Ate Her Ice Cream

February 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

Tyra gif

This story is a series of coincidences.

It started on a hot weekday last June, a perfect day for Korean cold noodles (naengmyun). I had made dinner plans to meet Rachel at Han Joo in East Village, so I made my way there after work.

While waiting to cross the street at the corner of St. Mark’s Pl. and 3rd Ave., I heard a loud voice behind me talking about Nutella. He sounded very self-assured, as if lecturing on the wonders of hazelnut chocolate spread. Curious, I turned around and realized that the loudmouth behind me was my friend Drew.

What are the chances? It gets better. Drew was with two friends, Brandon and Travis, who were visiting from Florida, and they were also on their way to dinner. So I invited them to eat with me and Rachel (she arrived a bit later). The five of us had such a good time over noodles and BBQ that afterward, we decided to head across the street for dessert at Spot.

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The Demise of Facebook Photo Albums

January 27, 2014 § 2 Comments

blog-fb

If you compare my previous two blog posts to all of my other ones, you’ll see that I don’t normally include this many photos, especially personal ones. Normally, if I had a lot of pictures I wanted my friends to see, I would put them in a Facebook album. I used to spend a decent amount of time choosing/editing photos and writing clever captions for my FB photo albums, especially when I was doing fun things like traipsing around Hong Kong. And I totally judge people who dump all 260 of their blurry vacation photos into an album.

But recently I’ve felt that the FB album is…dying. With the rise of Instagram, and especially after it got integrated into FB newsfeeds, the act of uploading or interacting with a photo is that much more temporary. Even people who don’t use Instagram behave like this — my mother, who put together dozens of huge (physical) photo albums in me and my brother’s formative years, is now obsessed with uploading one-at-a-time pictures of sunsets, homemade biscotti, etc. onto FB. (I do find it rather endearing and entertaining.)

Mean Girls gifThe way we interact with media has undoubtedly changed. People take literally less than a second to scroll past a photo on their feed; what’s going to make them stop and click through an entire album? Pages of gifs on Buzzfeed are the exception, I suppose.

This change makes me a bit sad. Photo albums are good for storytelling. You can see a setting, zoom in on the food, zoom out to see the people, follow the camera from place to place. One snapshot isn’t nearly enough to get all that information. Besides, because most of these photos are taken spontaneously and/or with a phone, the quality (content, composition, whatever) usually sucks, unless you’re some kind of pro Instagrammer with hundreds of followers and really great lighting.

Anyway, what it boiled down to was that I had a ton of photos from winter break, and I didn’t want to simply upload them to FB because nobody would see them. Thus, they made it onto my blog instead, which was the obvious solution if I was interested in telling a story. I’m not saying that all 1,000+ of my FB friends read this blog, but I believe it served my purpose better in this case.

As for social media, I’m curious to see whether people will find another platform to store and share their photo collections, or if social photography has more or less permanently evolved to instapix.

In the future, I’d love to spend time putting together physical photo albums like my mother did. It’s always such a treat to flip through the thick, yellowing pages to see what we all looked like in the ’90s. (I was scrawny and very nerdy-looking. #teamglasses) Of course, that would require me to figure out how to actually get photos printed, a modern-yet-retro convenience that I never got around to learning, like operating a manual car wash or dishwasher. One thing at a time!

tbt.jpg

Me at around 9 years old, from a family photoshoot we did (minus dad) in China

Winter Break With The BFFs, pt. II

January 13, 2014 § 1 Comment

As stated in my earlier post, one of my goals this winter break was to spend a maximum amount of time with my best friends, who all managed to be in the same place for the first time in four years

I’m not sure if we actually achieved that goal, but we probably came close!

During our first week together, we tried to communicate with each other by group texting via regular messaging, which fell apart when certain people’s texts would appear to reply to individuals but still be sent to the whole group somehow. Very confusing. We decided to start a group chat on WhatsApp, which was the best decision ever. Here’s a snippet of our delightful conversation:

37-whatsapp

It turned out the offender took two separate poop breaks in the span of an hour. What a champ.

The chat was titled so because the first weekend, we had a bit of trouble figuring out how to transport ourselves into the city as our available vehicles were no longer usable for one reason or another. We briefly considered taking the train, which would’ve been overpriced and annoying considering we were hauling presents/booze/sleepover gear. Desperate times…it was strange encountering teenage-level problems as 20-somethings. Fortunately Xixi was able to borrow her dad’s car to ferry us over. #suburbproblems

Later that week for New Year’s Eve, the five of us gathered at Chen’s house to get ready for the party that Sandra so graciously put together.

32-NYE

Lucy tried her hand at playing makeup artist. Putting makeup on someone else is a true challenge when you’re only used to applying it on yourself!

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